The Great Highland Bagpipe is the pre-eminent instrument of the bagpipe family. This includes various forms of bagpipes from cultures all over the world - from Spain to Yugoslavia, and from Russia to India. Bagpipes are descended from an ancient reed pipe. The fore runner of today's bagpipe accompanied the Celts from ancient Scythia via the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It arrived in Britain with the Celtic peoples long before the Roman invasion.
Pipes are generally made from rare African Blackwood, and feature ferrules and projecting mounts to protect the wood from cracking or checking at its ends and from damage by impact. These may be made from nickel, plastic, silver, ivory or a combination. Lately, manufacturers have introduced pipes made of plastic. Although these are not in general use, many pipe bands now choose plastic for their chanter, the piece on which the tune is fingered. The pipe bag is made of sheepskin, cowhide or elk hide. Technology has also made available Gore-Tex pipe bags, which can be installed quickly and do not require periodic seasoning with leather treatment.
The present form of Highland pipe was reached in the mid-1700's when the third (or bass) drone was added. Other types of pipes, such as the Northumbrian pipes of Northern England, the Scottish small pipes, and the Irish Ulillean pipes have, like the Celtic harp, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.
The solo players competing in the Games have expended many hours of preparation. As with other musicians, achieving a high standard means years of hard work, and this is aside from maintaining a complex instrument in peak condition.